Sunday, December 28, 2008

Moving to a New Home and Liking it.

Enjoy another lovely story from my youth. Apparently all the characters I wrote about had a great deal of strife! I also was quite preoccupied with eating. Hmmm, that was some obvious foreshadowing for my life.
Moving to a New Home and Liking it.
All aboard! Train leaving for California. We were on our way to California at last. I was kicked out of my house reason being that a man named Jack Jones robbed my land. I didn't have any other place to live in South Dakota so I was forced to move. I decided on California. I'm on my way. I have 3 kids. My husband died 2 years ago. My name is Isabelle. My littlest girl, Sarah is 2. My oldest girl, Carry is 10. My oldest son, John is 12. Well five more minutes until we get there. We're there. Oh good. I will go to my new home.
Finally, when I was there in my home, Cary asked, "Will I like it here as much as I did in South Dakota?"
"We will find out," said Isabelle, "I am sure you will."
"Oh good," said Carry.
Then Sarah walked in. "I'm hungry."
"Well we can't eat until we get unpacked. Even then we can't eat because I have to go shopping."
Isabelle was one of those people who were rich enough to buy food and needs for her family but too poor to buy a radio.
They unpacked their clothes and went to the Genarel Store. They bought everything that they would eat for two days. Then they went home ate and went to bed. The next day they got up late ate breakfast and decided to go next door and meet the people who lived there. There were only two people. Mary Sue & her husband Dick. They liked Isabelle and her kids very much.
They became good friends. Mary Sue and Dick helped raise money for Isabelle to buy a new radio. Finally they bought it.
After two days went by, Carry said, "I like it here. I like my new friends Mary Sue & Dick.
"I knew you would," said Isabelle, "I knew you would."

Monday, December 15, 2008

Certain Girls

I have always been a fan of Jennifer Weiner novels. They hardly qualify as fine literature, but are instead fun, chick-lit. I needed an easy-reading book after some of my most recent tackles. Plus the lighter fiction is right up my alley to listen to on CD in the car.

Certain Girls is the sequel to Good in Bed, which came out in 2001. 13 years later, Cannie Shapiro deals with the adolescent rebellion of her about-to-be bat mitzvahed daughter, Joy, juggles her writing career; her relationship with her husband, Peter; her constant weight issues; and the occasional standoff with Joy's biological father, Bruce. Joy, whose premature birth resulted in her needing to wear hearing aids, narrates every other chapter. She can be a very annoying 13-year old to listen to, but her perspective lends a great point of view to the story. As her bat mitzvah approaches, Joy tries to find her long absent grandfather (Cannie's dad, who was had very little to do with her upbringing) and tries to get to know Bruce better, much to his wife's dismay. Weiner throws in lots of funny lines too. My favorite is from Cannie's single best friend who's desperately trying to find a husband. First of all, she posts a picture of Brooke Shields on her dating web page and claims it as herself. Then, in desperation, she tells Cannie that at this point, she'd just be happy with "a Jew with a pulse." And surprisingly in the end this "surface" story turns out to be quite poignant.

Great book for a long drive.

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Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Bright Shiny Morning

I don't care what happened to James Frey in the past or whether or not he embellished the truth in his first two books. I adore his stream-of-consciousness writing. I also believe that part of his addiction was the inability to tell the truth and can set aside the "lying" because his autobiography is still amazing. That being said, I was extremely excited to read his first legitimate fiction novel, Bright Shiny Morning.

At first, I had a hard time getting into the book because every chapter is about someone or something completely different. It wasn't easy for me to invest in any specific character. As the book went on, it became apparent that there were only going to be a few main characters, while the rest of the chapters were just brief glimpses at others. This concept left me wanting more, but I think that is exactly what Frey was aiming for.

Anyway, the book is an homage of sorts to L.A. Each character either originates from or migrates to the City of Angels. Their lives are desperate attempts at happiness with the sureness that the City will be the place they will find it. There's the closeted gay actor with a wife and children who will pay anything for discreet male companionship. The 19-year-olds who struggle for every penny because anything is better than their family they left behind in Ohio. The immigrant housekeeper who works for the most vile employer just so she can save money for college. The homeless "old man" (who is only 39-years old) with a heart of gold trying to find his true purpose in life. And little snippets of others struggling to find their way. Again, it is hard for me to get invested in characters who don't have constant story lines, but Frey really makes it work. I was anxious for another chapter about Old Man Joe or the others because they were so spread out with lots of little stories in between. I was left craving more information about people whose tale only last for a few pages. When I was finished, I thought about the characters for days afterward.

While it normally takes me a few chapters to start flowing from sentence to sentence, I still absolutely love Frey's style: no paragraphs, no quotation marks, run-on sentences. It's a challenge at first, but one that I really look forward to. I am now eagerly waiting for his next novel!

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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Meme : ABCs

Can fill up the alphabet with books I've read? Can you? This should be fun.

A : Angela's Ashes | Frank McCourt
B : Bel Canto | Ann Patchett
C : Can't Wait to Get to Heaven | Fannie Flagg
D : The Deep End of the Ocean | Jacquelyn Mitchard
E : Eat, Pray, Love | Elizabeth Gilbert
F : Forever | Judy Blume
G : The Girls | Lori Lansens
H : Happiness Sold Separately | Lolly Winston
I : I Know This Much is True | Wally Lamb
J : Jack and Jill | James Patterson
K : The Kite Runner | Khaled Hosseini
L : Life of Pi : Yann Martel
M : The Memory Keeper's Daughter | Kim Edwards
N : Name All The Animals | Alison Smith
O : Olivia | V.C. Andrews
P : The Prince of Tides | Pat Conroy
Q : Quentin's | Maeve Binchy
R : The Road | Cormac McCarthy
S : She's Come Undone | Wally Lamb
T : The Time Traveler's Wife | Audrey Niffenegger
U :
V : Vanishing Acts | Jodi Picoult
W : Water for Elephants | Sara Gruen
Y : Ya-Yas in Bloom | Rebecca Wells
Z :

Only missing two letters...I'm sure I can fill them in, I just can't think of any more books!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

I'm so cool

Really. I am. A few weeks ago, I posted about a great author and a great book, Twelve Times Blessed.

I was lucky enough to get a comment on that post from Jacquelyn Mitchard herself! (and here I thought no one read my little ol' blog) All I had to do was send her a note on her website and she would send me a copy of the book. Hooray! So of course I agonized over what to write to a writer, but got something nice written, and yesterday my autogrpahed copy arrived in the mail. Yay for me!

Thank you, thank you Jackie!!

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Mystery in room 201a

I loved fifth grade. Mr. Murray was such a great teacher, and I remember so much about him even after about a million years later. He was a talented artist, writer and an overall cool guy. I recognized this about him when I was only 10! The main reason I loved fifth grade was because we had to write stories for "Language." Lots of them. They always had a theme or subject matter you had to follow, but otherwise it was whatever your creative mind could dream up. Even at that age I was an avid reader, so I can totally see words and styles in my writing that I'm sure I picked up from books I had read.

Over the weekend I found a few of my masterpieces and I had to share this one right away. The photo below is a small piece of the actual story, yellowed paper and all. And I even got an S+ (I almost always got an S+ for my magnificent writing)! I'm going to transpose it exactly like I wrote it because I think that adds to the charm of my 10-year old mind. Enjoy!

capter 1 The Mystery in room 201a
Once upon a time there was an old lady. She was very mean. Now she always committed murders. One day she went out and killed her own son! When she went to jail after the police caught her, they asked her why she did it. And she said "Because I don't want to see him anymore."
"Well" said the officer, "This is your sixth time in jail and you still haven't learned your lesson yet?" continued the officer. "You have to stop sometime or else you be in here for the rest of your life if you've got any." "Well I just don't care because I meet more people when I'm here."
"You don't have to know everybody in the world." "Yes I do I want to know who I can kill and who I can't." "Opps! that slipped out you weren't supposed to know my secret."
"We weren't supposed to hear you secret ayy lady." N-oNo-NN No you weren't." Then she said come here I feel sick." So they went over there and she took the key off the police and then shot them both. With that she unlocked the cell and ran out. She went to the cheapest diner in town (because she didn't have much money) and had some coffee and a donut. Then she shot the bartender and ran out without paying. Then she went back to her home and went to bed.

capter2 Going to Mississippi
That day when she woke up she dicided that wanted to go on a trip. She thought about going to Mississippi. So she packed her bags and got on a bus and went to the airport. (of course she wouldn't forget her gun) When she got to the airport, she lied to the person who takes the money for the tickets.
She said "My husband died and left me without any money and now I don't have any." "I'm sorry, you have to pay no-body can go on a plane without paying for their tickets." With that she shot him down and took the tickets and got on the plane. When she got to Mississippi, she took a taxi to the hotel she made reservations for and went to her room which was room 201a.
She was tired so she went to take a nap. When she woke up the phone rang, so she answered it and it was the person at the desk. He said, "Tonight is free dinner night and you can have a free dinner for the rest of this week.....Thank you." She decided she was going to go so she got dressed and went.
She had a very good dinner of roast beef, beans, potatoes, and coffee. Then she went upstairs and went to bed. The next day she said to herself "I think I'll go kill my best friend I don't like her anymore." So she went to her friends house and when she opened the door Bang! and she was dead.
capter3 No More Shooting.
When she got back to her apartment, she locked all the doors and windows so nobody could get in. She made herself some lunch and then took a nap. When she woke up she wanted to go for a walk but she wanted to wait for a while. She waited an hour and the got ready. She had to get dressed and put on some make-up and get her shoes on.
It was kind of cold out so she wore a coat. She opened the closet door and the man from the desk was in there and she said, "What are you doing there," and "Hello." He said good-bye and he shot her. And from then on everybody was happy and glad to know that the mean old lady wouldn't kill anymore people so they all lived happily ever after.

All my stories ended in happily ever after, but most of them were violent. No idea why?!!? Now I just need to find the best story of all: Cinderella and Frank.

Monday, October 27, 2008

beautiful boy & TWEAKED

I really felt it was necessary to post about these two books at the same time. I also highly recommend reading both, not just one or the other, if you plan on picking them up at all.

Both books have to do with drug addiction, specifically methamphetamine, but are told from two different points of view. Beautiful Boy is written by David Sheff, the father of the addict. Nic Sheff, the addict, wrote Tweaked. It's completely amazing to me how much the father thought he was involved in Nic's life in his book, to later read his son's version and realize that he didn't know a thing.

Beautiful Boy begins with the elder Sheff speaking about his son as a small child, his divorce from Nic's mother, and his remarriage with two new children. David had full custody of Nic after the divorce, but Nic was able to live with his mother over the summers. The solution seemed perfect, but it definitely had its effects on Nic. Nic began drinking at age 11 and it wasn't long after that he began to experiment with pot and soon heavier drugs. By about 18 he was a full-blown crystal meth addict. David spends the rest of his story telling the reader how the drug addiction affected his new and ex wife, himself and his two younger children. He spends his days worrying about Nic and trying desperately to get him into rehab. David goes to counselling himself and learns that the best thing he can do for his son is to let him go. He heeds this advice mainly because he doesn't know what else to do, but also because he can no longer afford to send Nic to rehab. In the end, he's convinced to send Nic one last time, and that's where he ends his story.

Nic's book is painful to read. He is extremely graphic about his drug use, using dirty needles, taking any drug he can get his hands on. He is homeless most of the time because all his money goes to meth, heroine, crack, cocaine; the list goes on. His explicit recounting of how he even turned to male prostitution was almost too much to bear. He literally would do anything to get high. Nic's story has him in and out of rehab countless times, being sober for over a year at time before he relapses, but it also proves how truly helpless an addict is to their disease. It was easy to see that Nic didn't want to hurt his family, his father, his employers, but he was powerless against the meth.

The next thing I plan on reading about this incredible journey is Nic's blog. I imagine it may be even more graphic and telling than his book, and I also really enjoyed his writing style.

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Monday, October 6, 2008

Twelve Times Blessed

Check out my top ten favorite books and you will see Jacquelyn Mitchard as the author of one. Luckily, I found another of her books that I didn't know about, published in 2004, and I loved it.

Twelve Times Blessed is about True, a widow, and her wonderful support group of family and friends. On her 43rd birthday, True is feeling wistful. Her friends take her out to celebrate and she meets Hank, the owner of the bar, who she proceeds to beat at a game of darts. Their chemistry is instant, even though he is about ten years younger. They are married shortly after their first meeting and she begins the cycle of sabotaging what good fortune she has been given. Not that Hank is innocent; he has trouble adjusting to an instant family after thoroughly enjoying his bachelor years.

I really, really enjoyed this book. Listening to it on CD, read by the author herself, I was engrossed the whole time. I actually was disappointed at how fast I finished it. Then I realized that I had borrowed the abridged version from the library. It was so good though that I am considering trying to find it unabridged and listen again. Mitchard has definitely earned a spot as one of my favorite authors.

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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

Wasn't this also a movie? In my opinion, too many books are made into film. I prefer to use my imagination and get more in-depth descriptions through the pages of a book than getting the condensed version on screen. As I jump off my soapbox...

I came across Snow Flower and the Secret Fan on CD at my local library. It's tells of Chinese women in the 1800s and how their lives are so completely controlled and predestined for them by the elder men and women in their lives. Lily spends the majority of her day in the women's chamber; a one-window room within the house that isolates the females from the males in the home. Her feet were bound by the time she was seven; just after she was paired with an "old same" (an emotional match of friendship, in the same vein as arranged marriages). Lily's laotong was Snow Flower. The girls communicate with each other using nu shu, a form of secret writing, only taught to women. Lily tells of her life, friendship with Snow Flower, marriage, family, deaths, plagues and children.

Lisa See seamlessly intertwined a history lesson with beautiful prose. Her description of foot binding was very graphic, and while westerners may have a difficult time understanding this ancient tradition, the author put a light on the subject that helped me to understand the reason women underwent the painful and crippling process.

In the end, Snow Flower... is just a lovely story about women and friendship. It's quite unlike anything I have read before, but I truly enjoyed it.

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Sunday, September 14, 2008

Stolen Innocence

Wow. What can be said about growing up in such a cult-like religion as the Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints (FLDS)? I think unless you are a member, no one could possibly understand the reasoning to why people believe what they do in the FLDS. The difference between "regular" Mormons and the Fundamentalists is the belief in polygamous marriage. That in itself is enough to make my stomach turn. The FLDS believe that the more wives a man has, the better chance he has of reaching Zion (I prefer to call it Heaven).

Stolen Innocence is written by Elissa Wall, and it's her story of growing up among these lunatics and being forced to marry her first cousin when she was only fourteen. The majority of the book reads like a very long newspaper article in that it just states fact after fact. While I realize she is not an author by education, I think the assistance of Lisa Pulitzer could have helped make the autobiography read more like a story than a long statement of facts. It wasn't until the last 100 pages that I was really enthralled as the trial of Warren Jeffs, the FLDS prophet, took place.

Elissa's early childhood was happy enough. She had an extremely loving mother and father, and numerous (I think about 11) siblings. Her mother was her father's second wife. Once he took in a third wife, her life started to change. There were almost fifty people living in the house, as you can imagine would happen with three women constantly giving birth, and dissension among the wives began. In the church, this is looked upon as though the husband doesn't have control of his family and can be very dangerous. The husband can be taken away from his multiple wives and children and they are in turn "reassigned" to a new man. When this finally did happen to Elissa, her siblings and her mother, they were placed in a new home and were now to consider the new man their father and husband, respectively. Are you following? Yeah, it's that ridiculous.

Shortly before Elissa's fourteenth birthday, her new father told her she was to be married. Elissa immediately knew this was something she was in no way ready for, and especially because her chosen husband (FLDS marriages are all arranged by the prophet) was her first cousin, a man in which she despised. She fought until the day of the wedding, pleading with everyone that she was too young and that the match was not right. She was told to "keep sweet" and go with what was her destiny. To do otherwise is to go against God's will and will lead to damnation.

After three years of mental, physical and sexual abuse, Elissa was able to break free of her husband and the FLDS people. Unfortunately this meant that she would not be allowed to see her mother or her two youngest sisters again. While the decision for her was beyond difficult, it was necessary to save herself. The book ends with the verdict in the trial against Warren Jeffs, the leader of the FLDS, and the accusation that he conspired to rape of an underage girl.

This book is literally ripped form the current headlines, as this trial just ended in April 2008. A lot of the time while reading it's very evident the haste that went into getting this book on press quickly. I have never read a book with more typos. At one point I saw errors on three consecutive pages. I'm not sure why this book had to be released in the same year as the trial, but it clearly shows the urgency. The last few pages are even about the raid on the Texas ranch that happened just a few short months ago.

Although I can go on and on about how backwards these people seem to me, I at least now have a little better understanding of the way they live and why they believe what they do. While I will never come close to agreeing with any part of this religion, it was easy for me to see that when someone is born into it, they no nothing else, so have no reason to question its motives. This was a harsh dose of reality for me and I am more than ready to get back into my happy world of fiction!

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Friday, September 12, 2008

Meme : Pressure

My pal over at Dog Ear Diary had another great meme last week. And since I was just talking about this very topic last night, I had to comment. I also added another twist to the question. What are your thoughts?

Have you ever felt pressured to read something because ‘everyone else’ was reading it? Have you ever given in and read the book(s) in question or do you resist? And if you really don't like the book, do you force yourself to finish it?

I have a terrible, somewhat displaced loyalty to books. Especially when someone recommends one to me. And I actually love to get recommendations from friends. To me that's the best way to add books to my must-read list. If I struggle with one that was suggested for me, I usually force myself to finish just so that I can give an educated review of it to the recommender. I need to stop doing that! There are so, so many books on my list that I shouldn't waste time with one that isn't entertaining me. I need to acknowledge and move on. Period. But what of my loyalty?? I will try harder.

Perfect example: Last night my dear friend was telling me how she is now trying for the second time to get through Bel Canto. She is really struggling, but since it's on my top ten list of favorite books, she feels it necessary to reach the end. She even went as far as to say that she has to force herself to pick it up and read another chapter. I assured her that although I loved Bel Canto, I understand if it isn't her cup of tea. I know some people who also think it's one of the best and still more who can't get through it. Believe me, my feelings aren't hurt if you don't like it. That's what makes us all unique and wonderful : our different tastes in fiction!

And for the record, Bel Canto rates:

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Monday, August 25, 2008

I love the library

One day I will have a house with enough room to have a fabulous bookshelf that will hold all of my fave reads. But right now I take advantage of the public library. Shame on me, but I have been going to the Rocky River Public Library for years and avoiding my own. The main reason for this was when I first moved to Lakewood the library was small and had very little to choose from, especially in the realm of books on tape. I just got in the habit of going to RRPL because they had everything I needed. Recently, I have been reading about and driving past the newly renovated Lakewood Public Library and telling myself that I need to support my community's library. Today I got a cool mailing about all the library has to offer. And I stumbled upon this:

Knit & Lit Book Club
Here’s a new kind of book club for both the knit-a-holic and the incurable bibliophile. Lynda Tuennerman will get us started with the first book selection. After that, meetings will grow organically like a long, long scarf as members make suggestions for books and needlework projects. We’ll keep our hands and minds busy on the third Tuesday of every month, sharing literary insights and personal projects. To register, please call 226-8275 ext. 127.

How fun is this?! Combining two of my favorite hobbies. Even the next book selection sounds cool:

The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse by Louise Erdrich
Tuesday, September 16 at 7:00 p.m. in the Main Library Meeting Room

I'm not normally a fan of book clubs, but this one piqued my interest. Who wants to join me??

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Beach Music

Wow. I love Pat Conroy. His could be some of the best writing I have ever read. He even has status in my top ten books with Prince of Tides (movie was good, but the book blew it away). His books are quite long, full of details, and never once am I bored. I finally read a second of his books, Beach Music, and for 768 pages, I never once wished for it to end. So much happened, and yet I was never confused or uncertain of the big picture. I was sucked in from the first sentence and still glued to every page until the last word. Some sentences were so beautiful, I found myself reading them two and three times just to absorb their meaning and beauty. Read this gem and you will understand what I mean:

"Pale light still held Waterford in the hot palm of the backsliding day. Late April is that time of year when light seems to melt into the river and touch the blossoms of the transfigured trees; it made the town seem tenderly kissed with regret as the river moved away from the fading sun."

Magnificence. The story begins with the fact that Jack McCall's wife has recently committed suicide and he blames everyone, including himself. He's angry with her family, his family and all their friends and decides to flee from South Carolina to Rome. His daughter, Leah, is two when they leave and remembers nothing of her mother or her life in Waterford. Rome is her home, yet she longs to know the rest of her family. Through a series of events, Jack returns home to be with his dying mother. Once there he must confront his anger and allow those closest to him to reconcile and learn to cope with the loss of Shyla, his wife, and soon-to-be-gone, Lucy, his mother. Shyla's parents are desperate to make amends with Jack. When their daughter died, they sued Jack for custody of Leah. Thankfully he won, but the scar ran so deep and forced his exit to Rome. While Shyla's parents never approved of their daughter's marriage in the first place, they being Jewish and the McCalls being Catholic, there was never a clear understanding beyond the surface of differing religions that made sense for the disapproval. The story takes us to World War II Poland where Shyla's parents endured unspeakable hardship courtesy of the Nazis. Jack also learn to cop with his alcoholic father and a mother that simply loved him "the best that she knew how." I could continue on and on with more of the plot, but I think it's fair to leave the rest to a new reader. There is just so much more I could say, but it could take hours and reading Conroy's writing will be much more enjoyable than mine!

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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

I found a new thing

I admit. I can be a follower. Especially in this fun world of blogging. I'm always looking for fun new things to post since lately it's taking me WAY to long to finish a book. I've been seeing a lot of other bloggers have a tab or section on their blog called something like "100 things about me." And I thought it took a long time to read a book...oh boy, how long would it take to come up with that much about moi??

Then I found it. My new pal, Jeane, over at Dog Ear Diary and I have been corresponding about memes. She has a great section in her blog about this new (at least to me) modern game of tag. So I did some research on exactly what a meme is. First, the word is pronounced to rhyme with "dream" or "seem." In the context of blogging, a meme is a list of questions you read somewhere else that you would like to answer. Hopefully others will see your list and want to answer for themselves, and so on. In looking around for a definition, I found a great site to spark more ideas. Jeane also said she gets her book-related memes from here.

Instead of taking a lifetime to think of 100 things about myself, this meme will do the trick for now. Read on and consider yourself tagged!

Six Random Things About Me

1. There are three words in the English language that I actually detest: fondle, moist and morsel. Say any of them and you either want to gag or swallow. It's very hard for me to describe cake.

2. I love to be alone. Sometimes I fear this to be a problem. And I am never bored. Ever.

3. I have no patience for an adult with a lisp and/or speech impediment. If you are over the age of five and don't have a medical problem, get speech therapy. I know someone who can help.

4. I'm probably the only human being who doesn't like potatoes. And no, not even french fries.

5. I sucked my thumb until I was thirteen. Gave it up for Lent.

6. Lately I'm wondering what it would take for me to completely switch majors and become an art restorer. Or an archaeologist. Do I really have to go back to school??

That was fun! Stay tuned...

Monday, July 28, 2008

Book Smart

I've been a fan of body+soul magazine for a while now, even though it sometimes tends to get a little too granola for me. But I really do end up with a few takeaways from every issue. One of my faves was a recipe for roasted asparagus and poached eggs. YUM!

This weekend I came across an article on a subject I honestly haven't thought about before. While I try to consider myself environmentally friendly; I recycle, bring my own bags to the grocery store and get very angry with people who cut down trees, I never thought about all the trees that were lost to make one of my favorite things: books. Currently, I get most of my books from the library or borrow from friends because I just don't have the space for a wonderful collection. But I aspire to have a killer library of my own someday.

I tried to find this short article online with no luck. But it's good enough to share, so here it is, word-for-word:

"The United States consumes an average of roughly 30 million trees a year to make books. Some smaller publishers offer eco-options – a recycled paper Bible from Thomas Nelson, for instance – and now major publishing houses are following suit. Scholastic, which printed the last Harry Potter installment on 30 percent recycled paper, has teamed up with the Rainforest Alliance, committing to use paper certified by the Forest Stewardship Council for up to 30 percent of its pages by 2012. Random House has pledged to produce at least 30 percent of its pages from recycled material by 2010, a move that will spare an estimated 550,000 trees per year. Not to be left out, Simon & Schuster recently committed to boosting its recycled-paper content to 25 percent or more by 2012, and to ship its merchandise to retailers in cartons made from 100 percent recycled material."

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Abstinence Teacher

The Abstinence Teacher by Tom Perrotta. Great title. Book jacket drew me instantly. I borrowed this one on 9 CDs from the library. And wow, it really started out great.

Ruth is a sex ed teacher who doesn't hold back her views that sex is OK. Unfortunately this is constantly getting her in trouble with the principal and The Tabernacle down the street. Her daughter is on a soccer team that is coached by Tim, a member of the evangelical Christian church. When they win an important game, Tim encourages the girls to kneel down and pray with him. Ruth goes completely ballistic, stops the prayer session and later tries to get Tim fired from the team. Tim is a very likable yet extremely flawed character. He is a former stoner guitar player who turned to Jesus to save his own life. The preacher of the church more or less convinces Tim to marry another member of the Tabernacle, and Tim does so, but is now filled with doubt and regret. The first half of the book is spent setting up the characters and explaining the lives of both Tim's and Ruth's exes. The sexual tension is high and I was eager to find out where all this would end up. But a little more than halfway through, I was not nearly as interested in what was happening as I started out. The plot almost started to fall apart. When Ruth's children decide they would like to learn more about religion and attend church with some friends, her attitude bordered on irrational and I completely turned against her. She was a mess. Tim on the other hand got more interesting as he began to stray from his faith. The two had an obvious attraction, but I didn't want to see them together. The end also left quite a few loose ends, but I didn't continue to think of the possible outcomes after I was finished listening to the last CD. I don't normally love books with big bows around the ending, because it gives me a chance to formulate my own opinions, but I guess when it came to the end of this one, I didn't much care.

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Sunday, July 6, 2008


I have to first start out by saying how sad it is to me that since I returned from vacation nearly eight weeks ago that I've only read two books. I have to keep in mind those glorious mornings is Mexico when I woke up and headed straight to the pool with a book in my hand. What could be better?! I can also dream of the next time I have nothing to do all day but read, read read.

Secondly, since I don't always think my reviews are very informative, I am going to start rating each book. Most of the time I just want to share my opinion to get others intrigued to read, but I'm not necessarily giving the best overview of the plot. Maybe the rating system will be another persuasive touch.

On to Taft published in 1994 by my one of favorite authors, Ann Patchett. Somehow this one slipped under my radar, as it appears to be her first novel. So with that said, I can feel comfortable with saying that this was my least favorite of her works. John Nickel is an ex-jazz musician who runs a bar in Memphis. He has a 9-year old son with a woman he never married (and who now refuses to marry him) and they have moved away to Miami. John's life seems to be full of regret, although his love for his son is written clearly and plainly. John hires a too-young waitress named Faye and it isn't long before he is fully involved in her life. Faye's father is dead and she and her younger brother live with their aunt and uncle. Carl is 11 months younger than Faye; they are both still in high school (a fact she initially lied about to get the job). This is where the story starts to take an unpleasant turn for me. Faye begins to fall for John. I can't say that this part is unbelievable since young girls fall for older men all the time. But when he reciprocates feelings for her I get annoyed. His life is somewhat of a mess and falling for a 17-year old seems too far-fetched for me.

Carl is a drug addict and a dealer and throughout the whole story does nothing but disappoint and hurt John. Yet John still feels this displaced loyalty to him and continues to bail him out of trouble. Carl is so unlikeable that I really wanted to see John kick him to the curb. The compassion he felt for these kids was not understandable to me at all.

Woven in between the chapters is a flashback of sorts of the kids' life with their father, Taft. At first it's unclear whether this is really the truth or if it's John's imagination bringing the story to life. I have to admit that I wasn't too interested in either scenario and it was almost too confusing and disruptive to the story to be of enough interest.

Like I said, Patchett is by far one of my favorite authors. But that doesn't mean I have to love every single thing she writes. Being her first novel, I'm completely fine with saying I read it and move on. Mainly because I have beautiful novels like Bel Canto and The Patron Saint of Liars to remember as two of my favorites.

* * * *

Monday, June 30, 2008

102 Minutes

If you're anything like me, you are completely obsessed on learning anything and everything that involves September 11, 2001. Being that it was just one month short of my thirtieth birthday, I was old enough to remember every single minute of that day.

A friend gave me 102 Minutes and told me to be prepared. It wasn't easy reading, but still highly informative. I took it home on a rare Friday where I had no plans, sat on my porch and got started. Perhaps a record for me, I had the book finished by Sunday afternoon, less than two days later. I couldn't stop reading and learning more and more of that horrific day.

102 Minutes: The Untold Story of the Fight to Survive Inside the Twin Towers is put together by two authors, Jim Dwyer and Kevin Flynn, who pieced together transcripts, phone calls and emails to get a clearer picture of what happened to the people trapped in the towers. Having heard the brave voices of these people brought a newer truth to the events of the day that I didn't fully comprehend before. I don't think I knew that everyone trapped about the crash zones died. I also now have a better understanding of why the firemen didn't just STOP and turn around instead of continuing up all those flights of stairs. (They were told the buildings would withstand fire for at least 3-4 hours.) Another fact that I had trouble grasping was how could jumping 90+ stories possibly be the best solution?? Obviously there is no way to survive that drop, and even people on the ground were killed by falling bodies. But some people were struggling so hard to breathe with others pushing behind them that they simply fell out of the broken windows. Others had to escape over 1,000° temperatures, so obviously falling was a less painful choice.

The authors also point out many design flaws and shortcuts made when building the towers. While I learned of the smaller stairwells, other shortcuts and a grim comparison to the Titanic (the buildings were built to be "unsinkable"), I feel that we can only move forward in future construction and not dwell on what now cannot be changed.

I don't think that as Americans we should bury our heads in the sand and not continue to learn more and more about these tragic events. I fear that as time passes the pain of that day lessens for the people who weren't there or aren't constantly reminded of it, and that is wrong. I plan to keep September 11, 2001 top-of-mind and never, ever forget.

The New Classics: Books

I really used to think that I read a lot. I know I definitely read more than some of my friends who also love to read. But I have been checking out some blogs lately by other readers and it puts me to shame. One woman reads 80-150 books a year (she recently told me it's more like 1-2 books a week, but still)! While she reads a lot more non-fiction than I do, it's still a huge accomplishment. Another blogger reads many of the same books that I do, but he still kicks my ass at the quantity of books, and even has a 10,000 page-a-year goal. I'm too afraid that if I gave myself that kind of "goal" it would feel too much like homework and therefore be too much pressure. I feel that way about book clubs too. I prefer to read what I want, when I want, and in my own time frame. But I still say (almost daily I repeat it to myself) that if I didn't work there is NO WAY that I would ever be bored. I would have time for my many hobbies, cook better and workout daily. Ahh, to dream. But I digress.

I love lists. Especially lists made about "best" books. Entertainment Weekly came out with the top 100 books from 1983-2008. I like to play a game with myself and get a really high number of "been there, done that." But on this list I only count eleven that I have read. That makes me sad. My list continues to grow, and if weren't for books on CD, I would be even further behind. Check out the list and let me know how many you've read. If it's less than 11, I might even feel a little better.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Bridge of Sighs

Bridge of Sighs is the second novel I have read by Richard Russo; the first one being Empire Falls. I love the idea of epic novels and simple, wonderful story-telling. I think Russo's are those type of books even though they may tend to run a little slow at times. I listened to this one on a whopping 21 CDs, and it took me almost two months to finish. I can't even imagine how long it would have taken me to read the 536 pages, or if I would have had the patience to continue through the slow parts. But Bridge of Sighs is a wonderful story that immediately gets the reader invested in all the characters as you learn about them over a span of 50 years.

Being that the weather is Cleveland is finally beautiful, I'm opting to take the cheater way out of my review today so I can go out and play. But I will first say that I loved this book. The following is from Publisher's Weekly.

"Bridge of Sighs is Russo's splendid chronicle of life in the hollowed-out town of Thomaston, N.Y., where a tannery's runoff is slowly spreading carcinogenic ruin. At the novel's center is Lou C. Lynch (his middle initial wins him the unfortunate, lasting nickname Lucy), but the narrative, which covers more than a half-century, also unfolds through the eyes of Lou's somewhat distant and tormented friend, Bobby Marconi, as well as Sarah Berg, a gifted artist who Lou marries and who loves Bobby, too. The lives of the Lynches, the Bergs and the Marconis intersect in various ways, few of them happy; each family has its share of woe. Lou's father, a genial milkman, is bound for obsolescence and leads his wife into a life of shopkeeping; Bobby's family is being damaged by an abusive father. Sarah moves between two parents: a schoolteacher father with grandiose literary dreams and a scandal in his past and a mother who lives in Long Island and leads a life that is far from exemplary. Russo weaves all of this together with great sureness, expertly planting clues—and explosives, too—knowing just when and how they will be discovered or detonate at the proper time. Incidents from youth—a savage beating, a misunderstood homosexual advance, a loveless seduction—have repercussions that last far into adulthood. Thomaston itself becomes a sort of extended family, whose unhappy members include the owners of the tannery who eventually face ruin. Bridge of Sighs is a melancholy book; the title refers to a painting that Bobby is making (he becomes a celebrated artist) and the Venetian landmark, but also to the sadness that pervades even the most contented lives. Lou, writing about himself and his dying, blue-collar town, thinks that the loss of a place isn't really so different from the loss of a person. Both disappear without permission, leaving the self diminished, in need of testimony and evidence."

Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Girls

I might need to add this book to my top ten list. It's so hard to commit! But after the first sentence, I was already hooked.

The Girls is a novel about the world's oldest surviving craniopagus (joined at the head) twins. When we meet them, they are 29 years old and hoping to make it to 30. Although the book is fiction, it absolutely reads like it could be true. Lori Lansens has a wonderful, poetic style that envelops the reader instantly and makes you want to believe that Rose and Ruby are real.

Rose and Ruby were born in the midst of a tornado and abandoned by their 19 year old mother. The nurse that helped deliver them, Lovey, immediately falls in love with the twins and convinces her husband Stosh to adopt them. The book's chapters toggle between the writing of Rose, whose idea it is to create her autobiography, and Ruby, who is persuaded to add her thoughts to the book as well. While Rose is the main character, she tells her tale in a dry, matter-of-fact way. Very believable. Ruby on the other hand is direct and hilarious. On a trip to Uncle Stosh's homeland of Slovakia (once adopted, the girls call their new parents "aunt" and "uncle" because they are clearly too old to be birth parents.) the family finds themselves in a rather musty, worn-out hotel room. Ruby, who has many intestinal problems, gets extremely carsick, and has an overall sensitive system, refuses to fall asleep because of how bad the room smells.

"I know, Ruby, just close your eyes."
"It really reeks."
"Don't be a baby."
"I'm not."
"Go to sleep, Ruby."
"But it smells like a person's ass."

Totally something I would say. Lines like this is what made the book so endearing and heartfelt. Each girl is indeed her own person with distinct feelings, interests and personalities. There is no happy ending to the story, but the way it's told, you wouldn't want one. It would have only taken away from the truth. This was about a hundred times better for a beach read and probably the fastest I have ever read a book!

Then We Came To The End

I really had high hopes for this book. Really. I had heard great things about it; especially how funny it was. The story, as told by Joshua Ferris, is about an ad agency in Chicago that has fallen on hard times and is experiencing layoffs and bad employee morale. I can relate. Now make it funny. Well, for me, it didn't happen. However, the web site for the book is outstanding. Check it out.

First let me admit that I didn't finish the book. I've gotten through 260 of its 385 pages and I couldn't even tough it out to the end. The main reason though is that I was reading this while on vacation at an outstanding resort in Mexico and the LAST thing I wanted to do while relaxing was read about topics that reminded me of work. The second reason I couldn't commit was that there were so many characters and so much jumping around from one to the other that I could never fully invest or care about any of them. Finally at about the halfway point I thought it was really going to start focusing on Lynn, the creative director. A whole chapter was actually devoted to her story of breast cancer. OK, here I go, I can start caring. But once that chapter was finished, it was back to its scattered, unorganized ways. The author kept using "we" as the pronoun, but I could never figure out who the person was speaking. The point of view would change as he talked about different characters, but there was always the phantom "we" I couldn't get past. I just didn't care.

I did laugh at loud at one sentence because it describes the agency I work for to a T: "The dress code of any creative department will always be casual; they may reserve the right to take our jobs away, but never our Hawaiian shirts, our jean jackets, our flip-flops."

The more I read, the more I try to not be so loyal to a book that isn't cutting it. I have so many great books on my list that I can't be tied down to one that is like homework to read. I might go back and finish the last third of Then We Came To The End, but it's not going to be in the near future.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

The Coast of Akron

This one has been on my list for years, primarily because Akron, Ohio is one of the main characters. Don't let the fact that it took me ages to read it take away from what a great book this really was. Sometimes silly things get in the way of what's most pleasurable.

The Coast of Akron, the first novel by Adrienne Miller, is a tale of an eccentric family's complete meltdown. Lowell Haven is a egotistical, famous artist who only paints self-portraits. His daughter, Merit, is married to an obsessive-compulsive engineer but is herself extremely promiscuous. The ways in which she justifies her trysts is quite amusing. Jenny, Lowell's ex-wife, is on the verge of a breakdown and rightly so. Which brings in Fergus, Lowell's gay lover, who is filthy rich and lives in a 65-room Tudor mansion. I had the tendency to think the author borrowed a few rooms and descriptions about the house from one of my favorite places, Stan Hywet Hall. (side note: If you've never been there, don't pass go. Go directly to the most fabulous house in northeast Ohio.)

The story alternates between Merit and Fergus' present-day perspective and entries from Jenny's diary from the 1970s. Each voice lends a terrific perspective and continually gets funnier and more absurd. The general plot follows Fergus as he plans an elaborate party with the intention of unveiling the secret that Jenny hides and also to discover why Lowell mysteriously stopped painting five years earlier.

I'd definitely consider this one a "beach read" because it was so easy to turn the pages and I was laughing and intrigued the whole time. I'm glad I finally got around to it!

Friday, May 2, 2008

The Letter Chronicles

A friend of mine had asked me to read this blog a while back because it contained a great story. "The Anonymous Guy's" entries are chapters of his novel, The Letter Chronicles, and what a clever way for undiscovered authors to get experience and hopefully recognition for their work. He even has earlier entries with other pieces of writing, though I haven't read any of the older posts.

However, this is not my favorite style of fiction. The story is of a young boy, Gordie, who is receiving letters from the future written by his dead grandfather. Each chapter tries to get the reader more scared and anxious about what is to come next, but to be honest, even though I primarily read fiction, this kind of tale is too contrived. I instantly don't believe what I know could not happen in real life and can't seem to get past that fact and just enjoy the book.

But that doesn't mean you shouldn't give it a chance! I thought it was important to blog about The Letter Chronicles since it was something that I did read like a book, and it's quite possible that you may disagree with me. One word of warning: the book is not finished. The author stopped at chapter 11 last June and said that it could be his last entry for a while. It only takes about an hour to read though, so give it a shot if you want to experience a new way to read a novel.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Friday FUN - Celebrity Morph

MyHeritage: Celebrity Morph - Trace family tree - Family search

Book Recommendation – April 17

I'm not normally a mystery fan. Give me a family saga or any great, dramatic story and I'm happy. But this one sparked my interest. I do like stories that weave in fact with fiction, and especially in tales from the past. I'm adding this one to my list.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Another kind of reading

So I think I've become slightly obsessed with blogging. Granted, I've been reading really slow lately (aka no new posts), but that doesn't mean I don't think about this blog all the time and try to think of topics to post in between my current reading selection. I also think that reading other blogs has become one of my favorite things to do throughout the day. It is a great way to take a quick, 10-minute break and catch up with what is going on around me. I've noticed that most of the blogs I follow have a list of other favorite blogs, but I thought I'd tell you about my favorites in its own post. (I'm kind of rigid, and the thought of adding another list in the sidebar of my page just makes me think "messy.") I hope you find some new favorites from my list, but also, let me know if there's a great read out there that I haven't found yet. In no particular order:

Zach Braff
: I love him. I love Scrubs. He hasn't posted since September, but I still check every day hoping I can get any kind of update from him. When will we see new episodes of Scrubs again?!?!

Cleveland foodie: I love food, I love eating out, and I am sick of chains. Her recommendations are always delicious and her blog is easy to read. When you can't think of somewhere to eat, you will get plenty of ideas from Michelle!

Confessions of a Cohabitant: Hilarious. Short posts that say a lot. Since I know both of the people involved, it's funny to catch her views that she makes so public. But sometimes I have to wonder, how do they stand each other? But that's what makes for great reading!

White Collar Redneck
: The name says it all, doesn't it? Why this guy didn't decide to be a writer when he grew up is beside me.

As the nest empties: A friend of mine who shares a voracious interest in books. She also always has a crazy story to tell about one of her three children or her two dogs.

Blogging Jason: Slightly twisted, slightly disturbing. Can't miss a minute of it. Each post title is a city that somehow relates to the post. A fun puzzle in itself!

Barrier Island Girl: A fantastic photographer who lives in Florida and shares the beauty she sees daily with the rest of us. Makes me crave sunshine on a dreary Cleveland day.

Whine & Cheese: Everything from pop culture to American Idol to politics. Oh yeah, and last year he read 36 books!!! His book reviews are great – very neutral, allowing the reader to form her own opinion about whether to pick up that title or not.

I Heart Cleveland: A quick daily update on what is happening around our fair city.

Ooo Baby it's a Wild World: A great friend with the singing voice of an angel. With both of us having busy schedules (plus she has three children), it's a great way for me to keep up with what is happening in her life.

Hot Coffee Girl: She has been blogging longer than anyone I know. A terrific sense of humor and outstanding writing style. Come on girl, you can get it back!

Eating Cleveland: Restaurant and food reviews with a whole new perspective. This guy loves to eat and isn't afraid to say so.

fitsugar: A little hard to keep up with at an average of about 15 posts a day (WOW!), but the information is great. Tips, tricks, techniques, recipes...all about being healthy. Ooh, and crazy yoga poses too.

Diet Blog: Fitness and nutrition tips with nice visuals. The topics are fresh and I don't feel like I've read that same diet tip for the millionth time.

Random Thoughts from a Random Kind of Guy: Illustrations of all kinds. I always remember what Mark said to me when I was choosing a college major. "Always, always draw."

Monday, March 10, 2008

Maybe a Miracle

First thought: pleasant surprise. As I was reading: Way too far-fetched to be believable. Once I was finished: a funny, heart-warming tale that doesn't need to be "real" to be convincing.

The story takes place in Columbus, Ohio at the home of the Anderson family. Monroe, 18, is headed off to his senior prom when he finds his 11-year old sister (with whom he is very close) face down in the pool. He saves her life, but she unfortunately still ends up in a coma. After his mother thinks that the doctors can do nothing more for Annika, they bring her home to live in a "perpetual vegetative state." The father, a lawyer, does not like this idea and turns to the bottle. Monroe would much rather stay under the radar; he does not want to be considered a hero, but is now forced to allow believers into his home after a series of "miracles" occur. That's when his mother turns to the Bible. The novel continues on in both a humorous and heartbreaking manner. The characters are actually believable, and Monroe becomes quite the philosopher.

I recommend Maybe a Miracle by Brian Strause as a fast-paced, easy beach read. You'll definitely finish it with a smile on your face.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Life of Pi

This one has been on my radar since it was released in the U.S. in 2003. I can't say that it was at the top of my list, but it was one that I eventually wanted to read. I checked Life of Pi out of my library as an audiobook, and I was thankful that I listened to it because it took me many weeks to finally finish the nine CDs.

Pi Patel is the son of a zookeeper in southern India. His father teaches him great lessons about the animals, as well as how to respect these ferocious creatures. This introductory part of the story spans about a third of the book, and I found myself just wanting to get on with the heart of the tale. That's when the Patel family decides to emigrate to Canada with all the animals. Pi's mother, father, older brother and the entire zoo board a Japanese cargo ship and head out into the Pacific Ocean. Not long into the voyage the ship sinks, leaving only Pi, a hyena, a zebra, an orangutan and a tiger named Richard Parker. How the tiger was named along with several other quirky anecdotes helped to keep my attention throughout a story that seemed to drag on endlessly. (However, I am much more patient when listening to a book as opposed to turning page after page.) Eventually, all the animals die except for Richard Parker, and the story then follows the 227 days Pi and the tiger are stranded together on a life raft. I found certain parts of their journey very entertaining, but I also felt that I was waiting for a fantastic climax; unfortunately I never got one.

From the reviews that I have read, I seem to be in the minority of people who found this tale too lengthy and lacking in excitement. Yann Martel is described as an "emerging master" with "tremendous storytelling skills." Life of Pi is assessed as a "richly patterned work." I happened to like the story overall, but wished it was more succinct and thrilling. For the amount of reading I do, I feel I'm allowed to be so hard on the books I read. When they really stand out and I think about them long after I've finished the last chapter, that's when I know I've found a true winner.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Book Recommendation – March 4

This little calendar makes some pretty lofty claims. "The most evil character in all of literature???" So of course I have to add this to my list. And since it's by The Road's Cormac McCarthy, I think it deserves a nod. Anyone out there ever read it?

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Book Recommendation – Feb. 26

My favorite fellow book reader bought me a page-a-day calendar this year that is all about great books. I was going to start collecting a pile of the days/books that I wanted to add to my list, but I thought it would be more fun to post them here. Please provide feedback if I ever post one that you've read so I know whether or not to keep it on my list! (I have a few from earlier in the year, but I just thought of this idea now ... so maybe those can be future posts.)

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

amazon kindle

A friend emailed me quite a while back (sorry Mark!) about this cool new device from, and at first I was skeptical, but now I think this thing could be the coolest new device I've seen in a long time.

The Kindle is an automatic book reader that holds over 200 titles. It's the size of a paperback book, weighs about 10 oz, has an electronic-paper display that eliminates eyestrain, and doesn't require any wireless plan. Amazing! You can download from a huge list of titles (books, magazines and newspapers) right from Amazon's Kindle store and most books cost $9.99 or less. You can also subscribe to blogs as well as house Word documents and photos on it. Check out the demo video in the Kindle link to see even more cool features. The downside is that the cost of the unit is $399 and they are currently out of stock because demand has been so high.

I am really excited by this technology. It seems like such a great way to travel lighter (I have a serious over-packing problem). On the other hand, one of my favorite things to do on vacation is walk around the pool or down the aisle of the plane and observe what everyone else is reading. I love the smell of a new book and the feeling I get when I crack it open to the first chapter. I even have a dictionary in my nightstand in case I need to look up a word in a hurry and don't want to leave the warm sheets! But Kindle has a built-in dictionary – oh I am so torn! I'm thinking I will wait for the price to go down (it always does) and try one out. It will never replace the real thing, but I'm techie enough to want one. Unless of course someone needs a good gift idea for me....

Monday, February 11, 2008

The Almost Moon

It's no secret what the opening line of The Almost Moon by Alice Sebold is: "When all is said and done, killing my mother came easily." And I was definitely intrigued by that crazy sentence. But once I got past the first page I was mostly speechless at how incredibly morbid, creepy and tense the rest of the book was. I will admit that the story flowed and I read it relatively quickly, but I couldn't help but be completely offended as I turned each page. I was wondering what I could possibly say about it in this post, and I'm pretty sure I'm still speechless. Instead, I am including a review from Publisher's Weekly and a warning from me: Read at your own risk.

"Sebold's disappointing second novel (after much-lauded The Lovely Bones) opens with the narrator's statement that she has killed her mother. Helen Knightly, herself the mother of two daughters and an art class model old enough to be the mother of the students who sketch her nude figure, is the dutiful but resentful caretaker for her senile 88-year-old mother, Clair. One day, traumatized by the stink of Clair's voided bowels and determined to bathe her, Helen succumbs to a life-long dream and smothers Clair, who had sucked the life out of [Helen] day by day, year by year. After dragging Clair's corpse into the cellar and phoning her ex-husband to confess her crime, Helen has sex with her best friend's 30-year-old blond-god doofus son. Jumping between past and present, Sebold reveals the family's fractured past (insane, agoraphobic mother; tormented father, dead by suicide) and creates a portrait of Clair that resembles Sebold's own mother as portrayed in her memoir, Lucky. While Helen has clearly suffered at her mother's hands, the matricide is woefully contrived, and Helen's handling of the body and her subsequent actions seem almost slapstick. Sebold can write, that's clear, but her sophomore effort is not in line with her talent."

Friday, January 25, 2008

Last Night at the Lobster

Funny name. Made me want to see what it was all about. Last Night at the Lobster by Stuart O'Nan is a story about Manny, the manager of a Red Lobster, and the last day the restaurant will be in business. Manny has been told that his restaurant is not meeting its number and therefore will close five days before Christmas. Manny and a few of his employees (that he hand-picked) are moving on to the Olive Garden, but unfortunately it's a demotion to assistant manager for Manny.

The side story to this depressing account is Manny's love for a waitress. O'Nan makes it obvious that the two had an affair and that Manny still has strong feelings for Jackie, but he also has a pregnant girlfriend to go home to.

The overall tone is very dry and instead of feeling sorry for the main character, I found him a bit pathetic. As short as the book was, the author definitely defines the emotions and personalities of the characters and what they are expecting from life. Though it wasn't a very exciting read, I enjoyed the writing style; smooth and flowing, and am interested in reading another of Stuart O'Nan's books. I think I will add A Prayer for the Dying to my list.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008


Back in October, I sang the praises of my friend for buying me a signed, first-edition of Run. Finally, I had a chance to read it (Eat, Pray, Love really took a long time to finish!).

It's no secret what a fan I am of Ann Patchett. Bel Canto is on my top ten list of great books. So the bar is set pretty high. Run takes place in about a 24-hour time span, and I read it nearly as fast. It was easy for me to get involved in the Doyle family's lives. I found it very interesting that with only a short time to get to know the characters, I was just as pleased as if I had read about years of their lives.

The story involves a widower, his birth son and two adopted sons. Surprisingly, Bernard Doyle's oldest is not who makes him the happiest – instead it's the younger adopted black boys. What happens on this particular night changes the dynamic of the family forever. Again, with a limited timespan, Patchett is able to go into great length with each person's life. And normally I find that books rush through the last chapter or two to neatly wrap up and end the story, but I was quite satisfied with the way Run ended, the openings it left and the answers it provided. I can't say any more without giving too much away. Run doesn't replace Bel Canto as my favorite by Ann Patchett, but it was definitely a great story.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Good Dog. Stay.

I love Anna Quindlen's writing. I often think of a great book she wrote about ten years ago called Black and Blue. It was one of those great reads that went from me to my mom to my sister to my grandmother in the matter of about a month. Each one of us liked it so much that we had to share it with the next. So needless to say, I try to stay current with her novels.

When I saw her newest book, a retrospective about her dog, I wasn't sure what to expect. I borrowed Good Dog. Stay. from the library on CD and it was 45 minutes long. So last night as I was stuck in a post-rush hour traffic jam, I was able to listen to the whole thing.

I grew up with dogs. When I think of the two I had in my young life, I can easily be brought to tears from all the happy and not-so-happy memories. We are able to bring dogs to work. Outsiders think this is a fantastic benefit, and it is, but my allergies make it so that I pretty much sneeze all day long. And while I love dogs, the intermittent barking throughout the day is enough to make me lose my mind. Regardless, I still love the only living creature that will give you unconditional love.

So Quindlen's story about her family's dog truly hit a chord with me. Her children grew up and then out of the house with him. They would come home from college and Beau would remember them with one sniff. And when it was time for Beau to be put down, each child made sure he or she was there for his last breath. Quindlen's words were so poignant, that in about 20 minutes I felt like the dog was my own. It's difficult to drive and cry! But this book is absolutely worth the 45 minutes (or approx. 95 pages).

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Eat, Pray, Love

First, I need to thank my friend, Carolyn, for a wonderful birthday celebration. Though it was back in October, this book was the basis of the theme for this year's birthday. I was in the middle of another book at the time, but as soon as I finished it, I began Eat, Pray, Love. This one took me quite a while to read, but it was well worth it.

Elizabeth Gilbert writes her memoir in three sections. She was lucky enough to afford an opportunity to travel to three destinations and stay away for nearly a year. This desire to "escape" from her daily life stemmed from a horrible divorce, another break up, and an overall early mid-life crisis.

The first place she traveled was Italy. Her love of the language and the food is what took her. The way she describes the food she ate was so vivid and wonderful. In the three or so months she was there, she gained 23 pounds! She also wanted to learn the language and worked with a young Italian man in a sort of exchange program. She taught him English and he taught her Italian. Gilbert has a very dry sense of humor that I loved to read. I often found myself laughing out loud. After only a few pages, I was quoting a line that referred to a vegetarian friend of hers who eats bacon. It was that kind of unusual wit that I really enjoyed.

Next, she was off to India to spend time in an Ashram and learn from her Guru. Honestly, I struggled with this section the most. I thought she was physically going to enhance her yoga practice, when in fact she was learning the spiritual side of yoga. I hear that there are women who have read this book and it has changed their lives. Personally, I had a hard time buying into the non-Christian views that she was taught. In the end however, she was at peace and spending time meditating and praying was exactly what she needed to help heal her mind and soul. The most interesting part of her Indian journey for me was her relationship with a man from Texas who called her "Groceries." He gave her this name after having dinner with her the first night they met and noticing how much she can eat. Richard was the bright spot in a pretty heavy, intense section of the book.

Finally, it was off to Indonesia to spend time in Bali with a medicine man she had met a few years before. I found this section to be very entertaining. The medicine man was a genuine, peaceful man who was somewhere between 65 and 112 years old. In her time with him, she was never able to get any closer than that. He taught her different ways to meditate which included "smiling in your liver." This was much more believable for me. She also met a woman who was a healer too and their relationship was truly fascinating to read about. I also enjoyed learning about Bali and the Balinese culture. It was in Bali that she met a Brazilian man and fell in love (after much resistance). And at least as the book ended, they were planning on making a very long distance relationship work. She was recently on Oprah, and once I watch that I will hopefully find out if they are still together!

Without giving too much away, I would highly recommend Eat, Pray Love. Maybe you will get a more spiritual connection from it than I did, but even if not, Elizabeth Gilbert is an intelligent, witty writer.